Gatland could hand Wilkinson lions gig

by Staff Writer

Warren Gatland has revealed Jonny Wilkinson could be handed a surprise call-up to the British and Irish Lions squad for next year's tour to Australia despite having retired from international rugby.

Wilkinson, who famously kicked the winning drop-goal against Australia in the 2003 World Cup final, quit England duty last December after amassing 91 caps for his country.

But the 33-year-old has continued playing club rugby with French side Toulon and Lions coach Gatland has not ruled out the possibility of the fly-half being a part of the Lions tour to Australia if his form and fitness are good enough.

Asked if he might consider Wilkinson, who has made six Test appearances for the Lions, as a possible kicking coach, Gatland was quoted as saying by several Sunday newspapers: "I might well think about it but he may also be available as a player. He's still a fine a player and only 33. That's not old.

"For me, everyone is in contention. The slate is clean for every player who wants to be considered.

"No one is ruled out or pencilled in and if you are playing well enough then whoever it is - whether it is Jonny Wilkinson or whoever, it's all about how players are performing for their clubs or countries.

"We've selected players who have been playing well just for their club sides and have done well for the Lions. They don't have to be playing for their countries.

"What is important if they are not playing international rugby is that they have to be coming from a side that is performing particularly well."

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